A recent study found that men’s adherence to traditional masculinity ideology is linked to negative attitudes towards electric vehicles, or EVs, and a lower likelihood of intending to purchase them. The study, published in the American Psychological Association’s Psychology of Men and Masculinities journal, suggests that deeply ingrained ideas about masculinity may influence men’s consumer choices in the expanding EV market.
The link between identity and consumer behavior has been the subject of research for many years, and previous studies have suggested that what people buy often reflects who they are, or who they want to be. In the scope of “masculinity,” consumer behavior does not only refer to being biologically male, but encompasses a set of social and cultural norms that cisgender men may feel pressured to adhere to. These include being “dominant,” “abrasive,” and strictly appealing to the opposite sex.
The study utilizes “masculinity contingency” to understand consumer choices and unpack how these choices reflect identity from a masculine perspective. Masculinity contingency refers to the idea that an individual’s sense of masculinity is not inherent, but is reliant upon their ability to adhere to the social and cultural norms placed upon cisgender men.
In other words, one’s sense of being “masculine” relies on meeting specific social and cultural criteria, and a failure to meet these criteria tends to result in feelings of diminished masculinity and a desire to “redeem” oneself via displaying more stereotypically masculine behaviors.
The study was completed with the aim of increasing the amount of work on masculinities, and in particular masculinity contingency, while also increasing the understanding of attitudes towards EVs amongst men. The participants of the study were 400 cisgender men, from the ages of 18 to 85, living in the United States. All of the men were recruited from Prolific, a platform that allows researchers to recruit participants for studies, and the study itself was conducted through a series of two surveys, both provided through the software Qualtrics.
The first survey had the participants respond to statements that pertained to traditionally masculine ideals by choosing from seven options ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” Similarly, the second survey had the participants respond to statements that pertainted to their attitude towards EVs, such as their hypothetical desire to purchase one, by choosing from five options ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”
Then, the results of both surveys were analyzed using maximum difference scaling – a research method that breaks down how people value different options relative to each other as opposed to rating each item independently.
While the study proposed three different hypotheses, the main thrust of all three was that masculinity contingency would negatively influence the participants’ attitudes towards EVs. The results of the study indicated a negative association between masculinity contingency and attitudes towards EVs.
In other words, the study confirmed that men who strongly adhere to traditional masculine norms had less favorable attitudes towards EVs, and in addition, were less likely to consider purchasing an EV and were more likely to rank an EV as the least preferred type of car.
While the study offers valuable insights into how traditional views of masculinity may influence attitudes towards EVs, it is important to note specific caveats that may be important context for the findings’ interpretations. The study collected data online, which limited the scope of participants to those who had access to the internet. The surveys were only conducted once per participant, which only captures their opinions at a single point in time as opposed to their consistent opinions over a longer time period. In addition, the research relied on the participant’s self-reported sense of masculinity, which could be subject to biases.
The study, “Masculinity Contingency and Consumer Attitudes Towards Electric Vehicles”, was authored by Mike C. Parent, an assistant professor of counseling at the University of Texas at Austin who holds a Ph.D. in counseling psychology.